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Energy Giant Ditches Coal Plant Retrofit


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View Kari Birdseye's blog posts
30 May 2012, 4:53 PM
Kentucky ratepayers breathe sigh of relief
Big Sandy coal plant. (Chris M / Flickr)

She’s big, dirty and 42-years old—that’s old in power plant years.

They call her Big Sandy in Kentucky and she has two and a half years to clean up her act until she’s either shut down or replaced with newer, cleaner energy resources.

Right now, she burns millions of tons of coal each year, equaling about 90 railroad cars of the black fuel every day. She emits more than 37,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, 3,700 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 5.6 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2010. That’s a whole lot of air pollution.

The Kentucky Power Company, owned by mega-energy giant American Electric Power, had proposed a near billion dollar upgrade to make the coal-fired power plant based in Louisa, legal and clean up her air pollution. But the price tag would be passed along to Kentucky ratepayers, who were bracing for a more than 30 percent increase in their electricity bills.

Earthjustice representing the Sierra Club, opposed the rate hike and the proposed $940 million investment in installing pollution controls. Retiring Big Sandy unit #2 and replacing it with cleaner energy alternatives would cost much less while providing Kentuckians with healthier air and fatter wallets.

Today, the power company withdrew their rate hike proposal without a ruling from the Kentucky Public Service Commission. The company spokesperson says they will need time to re-evaluate the next steps.

As the Earthjustice attorney on the case, Shannon Fisk, told Kentucky Public Radio today:

It’s clearly not economic to retrofit this coal plant in the heart of coal country and that really sends a message for coal plants throughout the country.

If it’s not even economic to do it in Kentucky, it’s certainly not economic to be spending hundreds of millions, even a billion dollars, on aging coal infrastructure in states like Ohio and Michigan and Tennessee.

If Shannon is right and we think he is, Big Sandy may be blazing a new trail for old, dirty, coal-fired power plants across the country. What a nice way to clean up a girl’s reputation.

If something is built to take the place of coal, there will still be loss of many jobs and children will starve.

It is sad that we are still using coal but what is sadder are the thousands of children who will go without food and clothing because nothing is being built to take the place of coal so that the employees of the coal industry will not end up without jobs.

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